Channel 19

Todd Dills

Friday Channel 19 news round-up: Cross-border trucking; ‘driver shortage'; and the 1 on the 53 and the 99

| October 28, 2011

Separate but not equal
That separation could be diminishing when it comes to U.S. and Mexican tucking, now that a new pilot program for cross-border long haul is under way.  In the wake of the Oct. 21 border ceremony at Laredo, when the first Mexican truck crossed as part of the new cross-border pilot program, notes J.E. Dyer at the Hot Air Green Room website, the job-creation rhetoric so prominent in Washington these days has been revealed for what it is. Namely, that is, bunk that has no basis in the way we all think about jobs, as ultimately an active culmination of individual skill, need and desire.

The politicians view jobs as constituency-building opportunities, as tools in an arsenal of favor-influencing widgets, Dyer says.

And just as expensive emissions regulations keep coming from California — and Washington with the announcements of new fuel-mileage standards for heavy trucks within the last year — the cross-border trucking pilot program, take two (“copilot program,” anyone?), revives. Dyer likens it to a sort of piling on to the backs of the independents. Regulations, in general (and these in particular), Dyer notes, “tilt the playing field on behalf of favored constituencies…. Regulations inherently create artificial advantages and disadvantages.” Read the full commentary here.

Dyer gets a few specific things about the independent business model a little wrong, and plays fast and loose with blame for the lot laid on the Obama administration (ignoring the fact that the seeds of all of this have been long in the sowing, with roots back over the previous two administrations and more), but to my mind it rings relatively honest in the end. What do you think? Keep the comments coming.

‘Driver shortage’ on the airwaves
Also Wednesday, Frank Morris of National Public Radio affiliate station KCUR in Kansas City explored the much-ballyhooed “driver shortage.” Listen to his broadcast here. You’ll recall I wrote about the notion in January in Truckers News, in which owner-operator Jeff Clark compared all the long industry talk of a driver shortages to a guy complaining of a Cadillac shortage when no one would sell him a brand-new Caddy for $10,000. Here’s a nugget from OOIDA’s Todd Spencer in Morris’ piece: “Trucking is an industry that goes through people like oats go through a horse…. It’s not a shortage, the problem is retention. And you won’t be able to keep good people if you don’t pay them comparatively for the demands that you ask.”

All the same, whether you want to call it a driver shortage or a pay shortage, some carriers are taking action on the latter front, raising rates to owner-operators. Check out my colleague Max Kvidera’s “Pay day” piece in the current, October issue of Overdrive.

And for more nuanced, historical perspective from Todd Spencer on the driver shortage notion, here’s a link to my January Truckers News story.

‘We are the __ percent’
Finally, an interesting read here. As political movements trade percentage volleys, a member of the top 1 percent of U.S. earners (those making more than $380,354) enthusiastically gets behind a plan to save the nation from default: Raise my taxes already, he says.

On the left-liberal Daily Kos blog, the writer stresses support for the Occupy movement in what he sees as its essential character, an acknowledgement of the widening gap between the very rich and the rest of us and the disproportionate sway top earners hold over the government. It’s an interesting essay. You can read it here.

  • Marc Mayfield

    Thank you, Todd! Lots to read–looks like good stuff.

  • Allen Smith

    Todd,

    Thank you for continually addressing the issues and not skipping around them!

    None of us buy the “driver shortage”
    I believe the next topic we need to address is the “unskilled labor” title that drivers have worn for years and have not even realized.

    The shortage of drivers are indeed professional drivers who no longer want to sacrifice their lives, face more and more government regulations, beg for safe truck parking to rest and be compliant, deal with EPA, anti-idling, lack of benefits, work 60-70 hrs/wk (no overtime), all for a paycheck that most earn for a 40-45 hr work week.

    Cross Border Trucking? There’s more to that than most people realize. It’s not just a few Mexican trucks crossing the border.

    If we keep telling it like it is, all the pieces to the “trucking puzzle” will eventually be crystal clear to all.

    Great article

  • Marc Mayfield

    What Allen said.

    Now the proposed HOS is called “the driver fatigue rule.”
    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-10-27/tired-truckers-versus-efficiency-is-focus-of-regulation-fight.html

    Think about how much “healthier” truck drivers will be under the proposed new rules!

  • http://overdriveonline.com/channel19 Todd Dills

    Appreciate it, guys. So a skilled-labor status would theoretically (removing any industry-specific exemptions that may exist) force an hourly-pay system on everybody employing company drivers, eh (or at least force overtime pay to be accounted for after a certain amount of weekly working hours)?

    Overtime might help the earning potential of company drivers, but it might also make dedicated independent owner-operator groups contracting with carrier logistics wings (or conversions by carriers to freight-forwarder-type entities) more attractive as well. Movement on that front happening in some quarters already, albeit for different reasons. Keep an eye out for my story in the November Overdrive for more about what I’m talking about.

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going, as always.

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